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12-15-11: The Agony Column Live with Lisa Goldstein and Ayize Jama-Everett, and music by Fenyang Smith, December 10, 2011

Karen Joy Fowler (left) joined the discussion with Lisa Goldstein and Ayize Jama-Everett. Click image for audio link of panel conversation.

"... let's look at what happens if people have abilities that other people don't have ..."
—Ayize Jama-Everett

Though they write of very different worlds, Lisa Goldstein and Ayize Jama-Everett have a surprisingly similar take in their fiction. They both write stories that effectively create secret worlds where fairytales and the supernatural are real; they create spaces in our world where these surreal and unreal aspects of our lives come out in the open. Our gracious hosts at Capitola Book Café might have a few signed copies left; and in any evet they certainly deserve your business.

Pairing them seemed natural, once I thought about it. Ayize asked me if he could bring a musician to join him; Fenyang Smith, a superbly talented player who helmed his music from a laptop using Logic and an M-AUDIO controller. CBC has a very nice space for musicians behind the writers.

Goldstein started the show with the opening from 'The Uncertain Places,' which I think is easily one of the best this year. Then with, Fenyang to accompany him, AYize read from 'The Liminal People.' I enjoyed this aspect of the show quite a bit and may try to bring in more musicians to back us up.

After that, the discussion began, and with a lot of help from our audience, in particular Karen Joy Fowler, we really dug into these two unique and entertaining novels. I'm podcasting everything today, in three parts.

Here's a link to Lisa Goldstein's reading from 'The Uncertain Places.'

Here's a link to Ayize Jama-Everett reading from 'The Liminal People,' backed by Fenyang Smith.

And here's a link to the discussion with Lisa Goldstein, Ayize Jama-Everett and our esteemed audience.




12-14-11: A 2011 Interview with Peter Orner

Click image for audio link.
"...the humor of hard things is what gets us through it."Peter Orner

Peter Orner could be a character in one of his own books; as he and I get set up in the office at Capitola Book Café, he's full of the same nervous energy that drives this novel. Of course, I find out early on, that to a degree, Orner is a character in his own novel. These stories are based on those from his family, and like his characters, he's always been surrounded by politics.

If Orner were not such a wonderful writer, it would be more of a shame that he didn't follow his inclinations to go into politics. But there is nothing stopping him now, so far as that goes, other than acclaim for his fiction and non-fiction.

Happily, instead of exercising his political inclinations by jumping in the mudbath of politics as it is practiced in the US today, Orner exercises his political enthusiasms editing non-fiction for Dave Eggers Voice of Witness series; 'Underground America: Narratives of Undocumented Lives,' with Luis Alberto Urrea and 'Hope Deferred: Narratives of Zimbabwean Lives.

Peter Orner's books have a loose fun feel to them and you might imagine that speaking with him is similarly loose and fun; which you can find out by following this link to the MP3 audio file.




12-13-11 UPDATE: Podcast Update: Time to Read, Episode 22: Sue Grafton, 'V is for Vengeance'
Click image for audio link.

Here's the twenty-second episode of my new series of podcasts, which I'm calling Time to Read. The podcasts/radio broadcasts will be of books worth your valuable reading time. I'll try to keep the reports under four minutes, for a radio-friendly format. If you want to run them on your show or podcast, let me know.

My hope is that in under four minutes I can offer readers a concise review and an opportunity to hear the author read from or speak about the work. I'm hoping to offer a new one every week.

The twenty-second episode is a look at Sue Grafton and her new book, 'V is for Vengeance'.

Here's a link to the MP3 audio file of Episode 22: Sue Grafton, 'V is for Vengeance'




12-13-11: Speaking Frankly with Thomas Frank

Click image for audio link.

"More Government, Please!"

—Thomas Frank

Harper's Magazine, being one of the last bastions of reasonable thought and a monthly publication well worth your valuable reading time, has a new article by no less than Thomas Frank, asking for the unthinkable: "More Government, Please!"

It's been a fascinating few years on the American political and economic landscape, and rather mind-boggling, to tell the truth. We're in the midst of what we like to call an "economic downturn," which is to say, a global economic catastrophe that is likely to make the Great Depression look like Happy Valley. I've been betting on the barrels as a fashion trend for a while now.

In his latest article for Harper's, Thomas Frank thinks the unthinkable, asking for more government and suggesting that we look at re-creating the successful programs that helped pull the nation out of the Great Depression. These are unfashionable thoughts in these days when the loudest shouters are loudly shouting for even less regulation in an economic downturn (read: "catastrophe") caused by deregulation. Happily, Thomas Frank is not so quick to damn logic as those who seek to be the boss of you.

I spoke with Thomas Frank about his latest article for Harper's and why more government is more better than meeting the demands of those who claim to represent "job creators." You can hear our conversation by following this link to the MP3 audio file.



12-12-11: A 2011 Interview With David Vann

Click image for audio link.

"...we're out of control, and we're a nation built on giant lies."

—David Vann

To be honest, I'm not exactly sure where I interviewed David Vann. I could probably get to the location again, a lovely suburban house in Fremont, but beyond that; I don't know. I don't know what the meaning of that house was, so to speak, and that's indicative of the intensity of our conversation.

I want to tell readers straight up that this interview is going to anger some of you, terrify most of you and rivet the attention of anyone who starts listening. The experience was like getting in a bullet train, no egress till the end. I'd spoken with David before, and he was perfectly at ease with me, and so we engaged in one of the most unforgettable conversations I will ever have.

I do want to caution listeners who might be sensitive. While we don't talk about any violence beyond the shootings themselves, the level of intensity here is such that some will want to approach this with caution. This is a conversation that examines the darkest aspects of our nation and our culture. I suspect that many will disagree with some of the conclusions Vann reaches. But I think it is important to have those thoughts aired, to get them out in the open so that we can look at them. The author makes admissions that are startling.

Readers can hear my conversation with David Vann about his book 'Last Day On Earth' by following this link to the MP3 audio file.


New to the Agony Column

04-21-14: Commentary : Lorrie Moore 'Bark' : Undoing the World

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2014 Interview with Lorrie Moore : "..when you read really trashy newspapers about people killing each other and all, they're usually in the midst of a divorce."

04-19-14: Agony Column Podcast News Report UPDATE : Time to Read Episode 157: Lorrie Moore : Bark

04-16-14: Commentary : Michael Katakis Lets Fall 'A Thousand Shards of Glass' : Missives from a Parallel World

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2014 Interview with Michael Katakis : "..we haven't lived up to what people's illusions and dreams are..."

Agony Column Podcast News Report UPDATE : Time to Read Episode 156: Michael Katakis : A Thousand Shards of Glass

04-02-14: Commentary : David Rich Steps in as 'Middle Man' : Spy Novels for the 21st Century

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2014 Interview with David Rich : "...so much is known so quickly..."

04-01-14: Agony Column Podcast News Report UPDATE : Time to Read Episode 155: David Rich : Middle Man

03-29-14: Commentary : Carol Cassella Mirrors 'Gemini' : Two Places at Once

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2014 Interview with Carol Cassella : "... we could provide good care for everyone..."

03-26-14: Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2005 Interview with Lucius Shepard : "It's an urban war in Iraq."

Agony Column Podcast News Report UPDATE : Time to Read Episode 154: Carol Cassella : Gemini

03-20-14: Commentary : Dave Barry Warns 'You Can Date Boys When You're Forty' : Five Star General Humor

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2014 Interview with Dave Barry : "...you have the right to demand that they grope your genitals manually..."

03-19-14: Agony Column Podcast News Report UPDATE : Time to Read Episode 153: Dave Barry : You Can Date Boys When You're Forty: Dave Barry on Parenting and Other Topics He Knows Very Little About

03-17-14: Commentary : Michael Marshall (Smith) Sees 'Bad Things' : Dark of the Heart

Agony Column Podcast News Report : Three Books With Alan Cheuse : Elizabeth Spencer, 'Starting Over: Stories'; James Magnuson, 'Famous Writers I Have Known'; Dasa Drndic 'Trieste'

03-11-14: Commentary : Ian Rankin Ordains 'Saints of the Shadow Bible' : Standing in the Shadow of the Past

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2014 Interview with Ian Rankin : "...I knew that he would not want to leave the police force..."

03-10-14: Agony Column Podcast News Report UPDATE: Time to Read Episode 152: Ian Rankin : Saints of the Shadow Bible

03-04-14: Commentary : Michio Kaku Foresees 'The Future of the Mind' : Form Follows Function

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2014 Interview with Michio Kaku : "But I'm a physicist..."

03-02-14: Agony Column Podcast News Report UPDATE: Time to Read Episode 151: Michio Kaku : The Future of the Mind: The Scientific Quest to Understand, Enhance and Empower the Mind

02-25-14: Commentary : Annie Jacobsen Files 'Operation Paperclip' : History as Thrilling Literature

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2014 Interview with Annie Jacobsen : "Hitler's top scientists became America's own."

02-23-14: Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2014 Interview with Jeff VanderMeer, Part 2 : "...still clear distribution lines for books...."

Agony Column Podcast News Report UPDATE : Time to Read Episode 150: Annie Jacobsen : Operation Paperclip: The Secret Intelligence Program That Brought Nazi Scientists to America

02-20-14: Commentary : Jeff VanderMeer Seeks 'Annihilation' : Creative Destruction

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2014 Interview with Jeff VanderMeer, Part 1 : "...obviously, something is subverting the landscape..."

Agony Column Podcast News Report UPDATE : Time to Read Episode 149: Jeff VanderMeer : Annihilation

02-14-14: Commentary : Jenny Offill Engages 'Dept. of Speculation' :The Domestic Descent

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2014 Interview with Jenny Offill : "..where did the rest of me go?"

02-13-14: Agony Column Podcast News Report UPDATE : Time to Read Episode 148: Jenny Offill : Dept. of Speculation

02-10-14: Commentary : Kelly Corrigan's 'Glitter and Glue' : Remembering Forward

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2014 Interview with Kelly Corrigan : "You just hope you get to have that whole second act with your children."

02-08-14: Commentary : My Life in the Bush of Books : Life as an Internet Failure Edition

Agony Column Podcast News Report UPDATE : Time to Read Episode 147: : Glitter and Glue: A Memoir

02-06-14: Commentary : Jeff Hertzberg, M.D. and Zoe Francois Bake 'The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day' : Cheese, Beer and a Crock Pot

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2014 Interview with Jeff Hertzberg, M.D. and Zoe Francois : "I knew it wouldn't work."

02-03-14: Commentary : Jane Pauley Hears 'Your Life Calling' : Crossing an Economic Singularity

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2014 Interview with Jane Pauley : "..it suddenly hit me; I almost cried..."

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